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Russell Wilson has been known for leading comebacks, but bringing this Seahawks team to the playoffs would be his greatest yet

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, right, throws his arm around injured quarterback Russell Wilson as they walk on the field before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in Seattle.   (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle times

First, we don’t know for certain that Russell Wilson will be back when the Seahawks meet the Packers two Sundays from now.

Finger surgery on one’s throwing hand is tricky, and as hopeful and eager as he may be to return, that middle digit needs to be close to 100% for him to be effective.

But let’s assume for a second that the quarterback is suited up for that first contest after Seattle’s bye week. Then the second half of this season is set up to be Wilson’s finest hour.

Few doubt how talented the Seahawks’ signal caller is. He has made eight Pro Bowls, been to two Super Bowls, and boasts a career passer rating of 102.3 – the fourth-best in NFL history. And as on-point as his backup, Geno Smith, was in Seattle’s 31-7 win against Jacksonville Sunday – it’s been clear over these past three weeks that he is a backup.

Smith was more or less hapless in the second half of Seattle’s loss to the Rams four games ago, when Wilson first got hurt. He was mediocre in the loss to the Steelers and below average in the loss to the Saints before upping his game vs. Jacksonville. The result is the Seahawks sitting at 3-5 with nine games left and their playoff hopes looking awfully bleak.

Enter Wilson. Every year it seems No. 3 is in the early discussion for league MVP. He has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL throughout his career, and is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame. Before going down with the finger injury vs. the Rams, he’d not only never missed a start in his career, he’d only missed a couple of meaningful snaps. But if there has been one area in which he has left himself open to criticism, it has been production in the second half of the season.

Wilson was the MVP favorite through the first half of 2019 before declining and letting Lamar Jackson overtake him in the race. Same was true in 2020, when he had a passer rating of at least 100 in each of his first five games, then began piling up turnovers.

From an efficiency standpoint, one could argue 2021 was the best start to his career, as his 125.3 passer rating is tops in the NFL. But can he lead a 3-5 Seahawks team to the postseason?

One has to figure that 10 wins is probably the minimum requirement to sneak into the playoffs – meaning Seattle would have to go 7-2 for the remainder of the year. And the Seahawks still have two games against the 7-1 Cardinals, as well as matchups with the 7-1 Rams and 7-1 Packers.

That said, the rest of the schedule consists of sub-.500 teams, including the winless Lions and one-win Texans. A playoff berth is improbable but still possible if Wilson plays at an otherworldly level.

I’d be curious to know if Wilson would have treated his injury any differently had Seattle lost to the Jags on Sunday. At 2-6, reaching the postseason would have seemed practically impossible, and at that point – who knows? – perhaps Wilson takes a little more time off to make sure he’s 100%. But now there is still a glimmer of hope.

Comebacks are an essential component to any quarterback’s legacy, and few do it better than Wilson. But it’s one thing to come from behind in an individual game – it’s another to do it over the course of the season.

It’s impossible to win in the NFL without significant help. This isn’t basketball, where you can just put the ball in a superstar’s hands and get out of the way. You need an offensive line, a run game, a defense, special teams, etc. Wilson can’t do it all by himself.

But if one didn’t know already, it’s become clear over the past few weeks how critical an elite QB is to having success.

Perhaps the Geno Smith era isn’t quite over yet. Maybe Wilson will still need a little more time. But given Russell’s pain tolerance, desire to play and the Seahawks’ need for him, I’d be surprised if he isn’t back vs. Green Bay.

This could be his chance to shine in the regular season like we haven’t seen before. This could be his opportunity to show he is this league’s most valuable player.

The Seahawks are in a deep ditch right now. They may have the one guy who can pull them out of it.